“The doctor called it ‘Influenza’, but I called it things in much less mild language!”

Training in Yorkshire, Sydney Spencer contracted influenza, the scourge which would end up killing more people than the war. He gives a graphic description.

Warmsworth Hall
Sunday March 3rd 1918
My Dearest Sister

Do you imagine for a single moment what happened last Tuesday? I fell suddenly & grieviously sick! What of? I know not. The doctor called it ‘Influenza’, but I called it things in much less mild language! I had a fearful headache which nearly blinded me & a swollen throat which resulted when I ate in my having a fearfully exciting & incessant sort of steeplechase going on in my throat, ie the food ran along my tongue, paused in mute horror, took breath, gathered itself up carefully like a cat does before jumping, took a flying leap at the small breach left where my throat once was, landed gasping on the brink & then I did the rest by a spasmodic system of gulps. And that’s the only amusement I got out of it! Well, my sickness left me yesterday as suddenly as it came!

The joke of the matter is that a man in this house was discovered to be the proud possessor of a throat which for days past had been dip (no I dare not spell it!) – let us just call it dipth—ia! Furthermore since the aforesaid man was batman to Capt. Fitch who sleeps opposite me, well by the time Thursday came, when I was feeling much less alive than dead, I was having a fairly cheerful outlook on life.

I gargled with ‘lysol’ & that killed whatever germs had attacked my throat & I am as well as possible again.

What do you think of that for a bloodcurdling tale?

Dear old Rowell, commonly known as ‘Pongo’, is now writing his one letter a week to “his Muzzie” as he puts it. He is a sailor by profession, frank & open, but a very blasphemous young man (not really but he bluffs it). He can scarcely spell his own name but is a gentleman by birth & education. He has so far asked me how to spell Warmsworth, the date of the day, & ‘week’, in one minute I shall have to give him my undivided attention, bless him. (Yes, Pongo, UPSET does spell upset, & been spells been & not bean!)

All love to you both, & my humble respects to the kings among feline races.

Your affectionate Brer

Letter from Sydney Spencer to his sister Florence Image (D/EZ177/8/3/7)


“He displayed the greatest bravery and utmost coolness”

There was bad news for several Newbury families.


The deepest sympathy has been felt with Mr and Mrs Liddle in the death of their son, Lieut. Morton Robert Bridges Liddle, RN, at sea. Formerly a boy in the Choir, we had seen him grow up and develop into a smart young Naval Officer, respected and liked by all. Engaged in most dangerous work on a British Destroyer, he has now given his life for his country in the performance of his duty and has left an honourable name behind him. We trust that there may be given to his parents all the Divine help which they need in this time of grievous sorrow. We should like also to express our deep sympathy with Mrs Thomas on the death of her son, and with Mrs Perring on the death of her husband.

2nd Lieut. Ernest Henry Church has had to have his right foot amputated, after being severely wounded while flying in France in an unequal fight against enemy aeroplanes, in which he displayed the greatest bravery and utmost coolness. We are glad to know that he is progressing favourably.

We have been pleased to see Lieut. Richard Wickens at home on leave, though we were sorry for the occasion of it, namely the death of his mother, Eliza Wickens… He was not in time to see her alive, but got back in time for the funeral.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine (D/P89/28A/13)

“We think of them very often”

Tilehurst men were sharing their experiences with those at home.

It has been delightful to receive letters from some of the men in khaki, or in navy blue, since writing the last set of notes, especially because those fellows show such unmistakeable signs of their appreciation of church life here in the earlier days. The stories of their experiences – religious and much otherwise! – are full of interest, and any of our friends who might have relatives formerly within our circle might let them know how a few lines would be appreciated. We think of them very often, and wish them the best.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A marvellous escape from an airship crash

Broad Street Church kept in contact with all its men who had joined up.

News has now been received from Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman to the effect that he is interned at Croningen in Holland. He was acting as wireless-operator in the air-ship which came down there, and had a marvellous escape. We are glad to know that he writes in a bright and cheerful strain, and that he is trying to make the best of things.

Flight Sub-Lieut W. R. Taper of the RNAS has been appointed for duty in Malta. It has been a pleasure to see him frequently in our midst in recent weeks. The good wishes of many friends at Broad Street will go with him as he takes up his new duties.


Brother Woolley has consented to continue his good services by acting as correspondent with our members on service. This [is] a quiet piece of work which is bound to have its good results when things are normal again.


The list of our men who have responded to the call of God and King and Country. (more…)

“May humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet”

Wokingham choir singers raised money for the children of men blinded in the fighting, while a prayer from the Napoleonic Wars had a new resonance.

Blind Soldiers Fund.

The Choir has spent several evenings in Carol Singing, and as a result has obtained, so far, £8 for the Blind Soldiers Fund. The rendering of the Carols was most creditable to the members. The Christmas dinner table envelopes received up to now, have produced just over £5. This sum is for the children of Blind Soldiers.

Lord Nelson’s Prayer.

May the Great God whom I worship grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general a great and glorious victory, and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet. For myself individually I commit my life to Him that made me, and may His blessing alight on my endeavours for saving my country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause it is entrusted to me to defend.

Amen, Amen, Amen.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P154C/28A/1)

A commercial kitchen for school children

School dinners, promised a week or two earlier, were instituted in Aldermaston, while an old boy came to visit his old teacher in Sandhurst.

Aldermaston School
15th January 1918

A commercial kitchen was started in the village hall today, for the benefit of the school children, 57 children availed themselves of the opportunity, and were made up as follows- 23 over 10 years of ages, 20 under 10 years and over 7, 14 under 7 years.

Lower Sandhurst School
January 15th 1918

William Worrall, an old boy of the school, now a midshipman in the Royal Navy, came to see me to-day.

Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH/3/3, p. 80); Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 421)

Two more of our men killed in action

News of Winkfield men.


We have this month to mourn the loss of two more of our men killed in action, Captain Godfrey Loyd and Lance-Corporal Reginald Knight, and our deep sympathy goes out to their bereaved families.

Corporal E.H. Harris has been seriously wounded in three places, and Pte. A.E. Fletcher has been severely wounded in the leg. Both are in hospital in England and progressing favourably.

Pte. Albert Carter is also in hospital in England and is going on well.

Corporal R. Nickless is now in England and we congratulate hm on being chosen for training for a commission.

We are glad to welcome home on leave this month Corporal Ernest Gray, and Privates G. Higgs and Francis Webb: also Alec Knight and Karl Brant who have just been appointed to a ship.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, January 1918 (D/P 151/281/10)

Reading has lost one of the most distinguished of its young men

Old Redigensians – Old Boys of Reading School – were among the many on active service.



D.W. Carter

The funeral took on Monday at Caversham Cemetery, of Mr. Donovan Carter, only son of Mr and Mrs. A.W. Carter, Of “Maubeuge,” Church Road, Caversham, who was drowned while, bathing last week at Peterborough, where he was stationed with the R.N.A.S.

Carter was educated at Reading School, and spent three years in the O.T.C., passing the School Leaving Certificate in 1913. He passed the London Matriculation in 1914, and was studying for B.Sc., with a view to taking research work in a Belgian chemical works in which his father is interested. He was passed for a commission in the A.S.C. in Jan., 1915 but, eager to serve his country at the earliest possible moment, he would not wait for the commission and enlisted in the R.N.A.S. as a driver in June of that year. Most of his time he spent at an R.N.A.S. station at Felixstowe, afterwards training at the Crystal Palace as an engineer. All the naval ratings and officers turned out to do him honour when he was brought home from Peterborough.

2nd-Lieut. D.J. Davies.

-By the death of second-lieutenant D.J. Davies, the only of Mr. and Mrs, of the Market Place, Reading, Reading has lost one of the most distinguished of its young men and Reading School one of the most brilliant of its old boys.

Davies’ record at Reading School was a remarkable one. When he left in the summer of 1915 he was the Captain of the School, the highest honour which a school can confer on any boy, and the holder of a Drapers’ Scholarship and an Open Classical Scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford. He Joined the O.T.C. on the outbreak of the war in 1914, and in the Spring Term of 1915 he was in Rugby XV.; and won his 1st XV. Colours. He was a prominent member of the Literary and Debating Societies. On the occasion of the school holding a debate in French, Davies opened the debate.

He never failed in a public examination and passed the Higher Certificate Examination of the Oxford and Cambridge Board in 1913 with one distinction, in 1914 with four distinctions and in 1915 with five distinctions, coming out at the head of over 1,700 candidates. He competed regularly in the school sports and won several prizes in the under 15 events. Latterly, however, intellectual pursuits were more to his inclination, though he always took a very keen interest in all the school activities. He combined great ability with a real capacity for thoroughness and hard work, and had he lived would have gone far. He died, his tank being struck by a shell, on July 31st, the day before his 20th birthday. His loss is greatly to be regretted.

His Commanding Officer, writing to his father, says:-

The death of your son is a great loss to us all; he was very popular and was an exceedingly gallant officer. Up to the time of his death his tank did exceedingly good work.

Death of Mr. Sydney Lowsley.

Mr. Sydney Lowsley, Deputy Borough Engineer of Harrogate, son of the late Dr. Lowsley, of Reading, died in a London naval hospital last week. Mr, Lowsley, who joined the R.N.A.S. Last July as draughtsman, contracted double pneumonia while training and succumbed after three weeks’ illness. He served his articles with the Borough Engineer at Wolverhampton, and from there went to Westminster, Lewisham, and finally to Harrogate. He leaves a widow and two children.

Gallant Deeds.

Military Cross.

Lieut. Oswald Francis, Royal Berks Regt., has been awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the recent fighting in Belgium, and also had the honour of being personally congratulated by Sir Douglas Haig. He left Sandhurst in September, 1915, and has served for the last 15 months in France and Belgium, for the greater part of the time on the Somme Front.


Bardsley, Capt. R.C., Manchester Regt., elder son of Mrs. Bardsley, of 72, Addington Road, Reading. Severely in the right arm and hand, on Oct.8th. Capt. Bardsley was educated at Reading School, where he distinguished himself in all athletic pursuits.

Reading School Magazine, December 1917 (SCH3/14/34)

He “saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire”

There was news of many Burghfield men, some of whom had performed acts of heroism at the front.

Honours and Promotions

We congratulate 2nd Lt Wheeler and his parents Mr and Mrs E C Wheeler on his promotion, he having been given a commission in the King’s Liverpool Regiment. His brother, T Wheeler, is now training as a Pilot in No 5 Cadet Wing, RFC. Cadet (ex Corporal) Alfred Searies is training in Scotland, having been recommended for a commission. He has been twice wounded, and has saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire. The following are now Sergeants: E Cooke (5th R W Surrey), R J Turfrey (ASC< MT), E Wise (2/4th Royal Berks).


E N Pike (killed in action), P C Layley (scalded), J Cummings, A Newman, and A Ware (wounded). W Butler, whose parents long lived in the parish, but have lately gone to Sulhamstead, is also wounded.


Jos. West, ex 2nd Rifle Brigade (wounds); Herbert C Layley, ex 5th Royal Berks (wounds); Fred W Johnson, ex 2nd Royal Berks (heart); Isaac Slade, ex 4th Royal Berks and RE (heart); J D Whitburn, ex Royal Berks (rheumatism), just moved to Five Oaken. Arthur L Collins, in last magazine, should have been described as ex 5th Royal Berks.

Other War Items

Lieutenant Francis E Foster, RNVR, of Highwoods, who since the outbreak of war has been looking for trouble in the North Sea, has been rewarded by transfer to a quieter job further south, for the present. Lieutenant Geoffrey H B Chance, MG Corps (of the Shrubberies) is in hospital in Egypt, suffering from malaria.

Roll of Honour
Mr Willink thanks all who have given him information. He is always glad to receive more. It is difficult if not impossible, especially since the Military Service Act, to keep the Roll up to date.

Obituary Notices

The following death is recorded with regret.

Mr E N Pike, of Burghfield Hatch, son of Mrs Pike of Brook House, lost his life as above stated, for his country on 11th November, less than a week after returning to the front from a month’s leave which had been granted him to enable him to get in his fruit crop. An officer in his Battery writes: “In the short time that Gunner Pike has been in the Battery we have learned to appreciate him not only for his work but for the man he was”. He leaves a young widow and a little boy. He had good hopes of obtaining a commission in time.

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4)

May God in His great mercy bring this terrible war to an end before another year is through

There was a Christmas message for men from Reading St John.



Let me once again, in a few brief words, express to you all the cordial good wishes of your friends back here in the home parish. out of hearts full of affection and gratitude we send you our very warmest Christmas greetings. You may be sure that we shall be thinking of you on Christmas Day, and praying for you too. May God in His great mercy bring this terrible war to an end before another year is through, so that all the families now separated may be reunited, and the men now on the sea or in the trenches may spend next Christmas in peace under their own roof-tree.

Believe me,

Your very sincere friend and vicar

W. Britton

Reading St. John parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

An acceptable parcel for every man

The war’s effect on the economy limited Christmas gifts for soldiers this year.

Broad Street Congregational Church, Reading

For the Fund to provide Xmas Parcels for our men with the Naval and Military Forces, there was contributed (in addition to the many comforts and other gifts in kind) the sum of £33 7s 9d. The committee appointed for the purpose were thus enabled to send an acceptable parcel to every man who has gone out from the Church or Brotherhood, and they wish to thank the many friends who subscribed to the Fund, either in money or kind, or both, for their gifts. I should like to associate myself with that expression of gratitude, and I should like further to acknowledge a deep sense of indebtedness to Mr C Dalgleish (Hon. Sec.) and the members of the committee for the splendid service they rendered in making provision for, and despatching, the parcels.


In accordance with the notice in the magazine, 58 Christmas parcels have been sent to all Burghfield men who are serving beyond seas. Owing to bad times, the subscriptions for the parish were not so large as last year, but the greeting from friends at Burghfield was written on a Xmas card in each parcel.

Burghfield parish magazine, January 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The acute crisis of the war is on now

Losses were mounting, as the Russians bowed out.

18 December 1917

Met H on return at Marlow & heard with joy my muff found – not parcel yet!

Horrid news of lost convoy between here & Norway. Treachery somewhere. Lost 5 ships in Halifax disaster. Russian armistice begun!!!!

The acute crisis on now of the war.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

A ship in the Irish Sea

Florence Vansittart Neale’s nephew Paul Eddis was back in the swing of things after his daring escape from Denmark.

13 December 1917

Paul has got ship in Irish Sea.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Awful explosion in ships

The explosion of a French ship carrying munitions in Canada has been called the worst manmade explosion before the invention of nuclear weapons.

8 December 1917

Awful explosion in ships at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Town almost destroyed! Roumania [sic] having truce….

Wrote to prisoners. Mrs Pack & Mr Rich [visited]. His son died of wounds. My Bubs to start for Paris 4 pm via Southampton & Havre.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The great sacrifice

Crazies Hill Notes

So far as we have observed the following from our list of those serving King and Country have been home on leave recently and it gave us great pleasure to welcome them:

Henry Doe, Hubert and Walter Denton, Tom Silver, Joseph Kimble, Jesse Waldron, Sam, Jim, David and Tom Weller.

Charles Ellison Woodward is a first-class wireless operator on a patrol yacht and not on a mine-sweeper as stated in our last issue.

Much sympathy is felt for Willie Denton who had a leg amputated owing to wounds and is now in Netley Hospital. He was a faithful member of our choir, and when home on leave some time ago he took his place in the choir as usual and we were all so glad to see him back. To his father and relatives as well as to himself we offer our sincere sympathy.

Hare Hatch

The deepest sympathy of a large circle of friends is felt for Mr. and Mrs. Sharp, whose son Valentin was killed at Salonica, on September 28th.

The Commanding Officer states: “We looked upon him not so much as a comrade but as a brother, he was greatly loved by the whole company.”

Valentine served at Gallipoli until he was wounded when, after a short period of convalescence at home, he was sent to Salonica where he has made the great sacrifice. This second bereavement has called forth the deepest sympathy for the family. We trust they will be supported and comforted by our prayers in the hour of trial.

Wargrave parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)